Organization gathers on campus to protest sexual assault, university responds

A small crowd of students and community members strived to emphasize a big message Monday afternoon: their anger with the university response to last semester’s sexual assault allegations.

The group, mostly members of the club Progressive Youth Organization (PYO), clustered outside the administration building and held signs declaring “UMKC protects rapists” and “Make rapists afraid again.”

“We want to take steps to delegitimize rape culture on campus,” a UMKC senior and supporter of PYO, who preferred to be kept anonymous, explained.

When pressed for specifics, the student expressed a desire for new leadership in the UMKC administration. In several Facebook posts, PYO also calls for the university to expel the two students accused of sexual assault.

“The university makes excuses and says ‘Technically, this isn’t sexual assault,’” the member continued. “They’re trying to defame the character of people who are stepping out. [Meanwhile], these predators are still at large.”

This statement referenced a reported incident which occurred Nov. 10 at an off-campus party. In an earlier interview with U-News, the victim described being cornered, grabbed and mocked by three male student athletes while heading downstairs for a breath of fresh air.

Then, the victim said, the men began removing their pants.

Protestors recounted this to onlookers who asked about their posters. In addition, they handed out copies of the fliers—which included the names, photos and email addresses of the accused—that drew previous controversy. Late last semester, members of PYO glued these signs on the windows of campus buildings. More recently, they have distributed the posters in the Student Union.

In fact, these fliers prompted Provost and Interim Chancellor Barbara Bichelmeyer to send a campus-wide email Friday to students, faculty and the overall campus community.

“There were some fliers that were being posted around campus that had some information in them that, from my understanding, is incorrect,” Bichelmeyer stated. “I felt the need to correct it.”

Overall, Bichelmeyer stressed that the event is still under Title IX investigation, a process she says has been disrupted by intense social media discussion.

“When there is some indication that something might have occurred, we want to rush to make sure action has taken place and appropriate sanctions have been addressed,” Bichelmeyer said. “At the same time, the only way to know what happened and to make reasoned, deliberative decisions is to hear from all parties and give it the privacy it deserves.”

krl7b2@mail.umkc.edu

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